Or: How Much Should Street Food Cost?
A tale of two sides.
On the one hand, you are the punter. You have visited a cash machine especially for the occasion (thank you, card payments slow everything down) and you are meandering through super-trendy-street-food-event looking for something to eat. It just strikes you that, well, it’s all kinda expensive. I mean £6 quid for a burger? £7 just to add a slice of bacon? £8 for a toastie? So you begin to wonder if all these stalls are just shamelessly ripping you off, and whether you would be better off just going home and bloody well making it yourself.
On the other hand, you are the street food trader. You have one night; 4 glorious hours in which to sell as much of your food as you possibly can, whilst still making sure every portion tastes good, looks good and smells good. This event is going beautifully; no one has stopped the whole queue by asking if you take card, and the throngs of people are eager. You pause as an overheard snippet of conversation beyond the gazebo describes your food as overpriced, but hey, they don’t have to buy it, hopefully others will.
Back to punting. There was an advert for a budget supermarket chain a few years back, where folks visited a restaurant, ate an apparently delicious meal and were then delighted with a bill for a couple of quid. In essence, the advert is correct. If you shop at discount German store of your choice, you will undoubtedly be able to make a dish much like the one currently costing you £8. I’m glad you opted for the Manwich by the way. It was the right choice. What the advert has conveniently forgotten is that the food is not the expensive part. The people are.
Back to the people. You have debated long and hard about how much to charge for your food. You start with the cost of the ingredients. Yes, including the mayo. It’s only a few pence, but a few pence ten thousand times over is actually quite a lot. Then the sexy bamboo platter it’s served on. Cracking eco-credentials; expensive for what it is. Which is a glorified paper plate. Assuming you sell 150 portions at £6.50 average that’s basically a grand. Take out pitch fees, ingredients, staff and running costs and you’re left with about enough to cover the three days you spent working on this event. As long as tomorrow is good too.
Back in front of the van, Manwich in hand. A few massive, indulgent bites in and frankly, you’ve forgotten how much it cost. Who cares anyway? What you are paying for is not bread and cheese (and many, many other magnificent things) it’s the fact that right here, right now, you can have something that speaks flavoursome poetry to your soul. You can have a few nice beers, try a dozen different things with your mates and stumble home for the same price as any other night out. No one is suggesting you eat street food every day, but we are, if you like, an everyday indulgence.
As a street food trader, the price you charge is the one that means when people eat your food, they think it was worth the money. If your food sucks, people won’t buy it, no matter how cheap it is. So make the best food you possibly can, and charge whatever you like, as long as the people keep coming back. If it’s too much, people won’t pay it, but rather than starting at £15 and working your way down, I’d start low and work your way up. Every extra 50p can then go towards the speed boat. Or like, the mortgage, if you’re boring.